Plans to restore pitch in Bill Shankly’s hometown

The Bill Shankly memorial in the village of Glenbuck, which was depopulated with the demise of heavy industry. Picture: John Devlin

The Bill Shankly memorial in the village of Glenbuck, which was depopulated with the demise of heavy industry. Picture: John Devlin

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A long-lost village regarded as one of the most important breeding grounds for Scottish footballers could soon nurture a new generation of players.

Glenbuck, a former mining community in the Southern Uplands, is best known as the birthplace of the late Liverpool manager Bill Shankly.

There are daft ideas which turn out to be not so daft

Robert Gillan

He was one of 53 professionals to emerge from the Ayrshire village, among them five internationalists and four FA Cup winners. But decades after Glenbuck was depopulated as a result of the demise of heavy industry in the area, plans are afoot to restore the village’s famous footballing legacy as part of a multi-million pound regeneration project.

The Scottish Mines Regeneration Trust (SMRT), the independent body tasked with restoring thousands of acres of land scarred by opencast mining, hopes to re-establish Burnside Park, the ground of the village’s team the Glenbuck Cherrypickers.

Professor Russel Griggs, chairman of the trust, said the proposals would tie in with wider plans to turn the nearby Spireslack and Mainshill areas into a geopark.

He said: “What we’re trying to do is develop some sort of museum to tell the industrial and social history of that valley because it’s been in mining for 1,000 years. There is visible geological evidence that you can bring people to see.

“We also want to do something to tie in with that at Glenbuck and the history of football. One of the proposals is to restore the pitch.”

Although the scheme is ambitious given that Glenbuck has no community of its own, Prof Griggs believes the idea is viable.

In a new book which explores the legacy of Glenbuck, Shankly’s Village, written by Adam Powley and Robert Gillan, he states: “There are daft ideas which turn out to be not so daft.”

No budget or timescale has been set for the initiative but the SMRT currently has to find £1m a year just to maintain the sites across the Southern Uplands under its care and ensure they meet health and safety. Even so, Prof Griggs believes the project could be up and running in three to five years’ time.

Although the Glenbuck Cherrypickers only played in Ayrshire junior competitions, they won a host of trophies and served as a prolific assembly line for top-level sportsmen, giving rise to the village’s nickname as the “nursery of footballers”.

As well as Shankly, the village produced top-level footballers who played for teams such as Everton, Manchester City, Newcastle, Preston North End, Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday.

The SMRT proposals tie in with plans to establish a football museum devoted to Glenbuck along with a football academy that will allow young players in the area to follow in the footsteps of the Cherrypickers.

Shankly’s Village by Adam Powley and Robert Gillan is out now via Pitch Publishing.

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